2018 Congress Call for Papers

July 3, 2017 in Conference, Conference Announcement, Events, International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Manuscript Studies, Uncategorized

Sponsored and Co-Sponsored
by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence
at the 53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies
10–13 May 2018

Call for Papers
— Deadline for Proposals = 15 September 2017 —

[Published on 3 July 2017, with updates.
Further update:  With the close of the Call for Papers, we have evaluated the proposals received, and chosen the Programs for all the Sessions, both sponsored and co-sponsored.  Upon submitting those Programs to the Congress Committee, we prepare an update for our website, which, when ready, will appear as our 2018 Congress Program.]

With the achievement of our Activities at the 2017 International Congress on Medieval Studies, as announced in our 2017  Congress Program, we both give a 2017 Congress Report and begin to prepare a special Behind the Scenes Report (in preparation).

(Please note:  Illness and a death in the family have impeded these stages, so please watch this space and our Facebook Page for notice of the appearance of that Extra Report.)


Now we proceed to preparations for the 2018 Congress. All but one of our Session Proposals have been accepted, so that we progress to their Call for Papers.  Shame about the refusal for one proposal.  It would have been great.  (Our opinion.)

Logo of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence (colour version)The Congress Committee now publishes the full 2017 Call for Papers for 52nd ICMS, with the list of Session Titles and Sponsors. Here we announce our 5 co-sponsored Sessions and describe their aims.

As in recent years, we co-sponsor Sessions with the Societas Magica (3 Sessions).  But not, because of that refusal (Boo Hoo!) can there be a session co-sponsored with the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Florida.

It will be the 13th year of co-sponsorship with the Societas Magica, and it would have been the 5th year with the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies.  Both collaborations are excellently collegial.  (Fun, too!)

IMG_3788 Frank & David P at Soc Mag Reception AZO 2017 cropped

The co-organizers are justly happy with our 2017 Co-Sponsored Session on “Manuscripts to Materials”. Totally. Photography by Mildred Budny.

Also, like the 2017 Congress, we plan for

  • an Open Business Meeting and
  • a Reception.

[Update.  With the arrival of the date ending the Call for Papers, we now assess the proposals for papers for our Sessions.  After deliberating and reporting the selected Programs to the Congress Committee, we can report these developments.

As usual, we aim to publish the Abstracts for the accepted Papers as the preparations for the Congress advance.  Abstracts for previous Congresses appear in the Congress Abstracts, listed by Year and by Author.]

Background and Foreground

Glimpses of our co-sponsored Receptions at the Congress appear in the souvenirs of our Celebrations and in the Reports for the individual Congresses (2016, 2015, and 2014 Anniversary).

Agenda for 2017 Open Business Meeting of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence. 1-page Agenda set in RGME Bembino.

2017 Business Meeting Agenda

The Agendas for our Open Business Meetings are available for your inspection and perusal:

These 1-page statements serve as concise Reports for our Activities, Plans, and Desiderata.

While we’re here:  Interesting, isn’t it, that these Agendas have rapidly become one of our Most-Downloaded Offerings? Some of them now stand among the Top 5 Most Popular Downloads on our site.

The most popular downloads still remain our copyright and FREE multilingual digital font Bembino, and some Booklets from our Symposia and Colloquia. So far, those “best sellers” — they are FREE — include:

These publications, like most of our Publications, are FREE, but we welcome donations, both in funds and in kind, for our nonprofit mission, with the option of tax-deduction for your Donations.

We look forward to your contributions.


And now, here is the plan for 2018 at the International Congress on Medieval Studies.  We announce the accepted Sessions, describe their aims and scope, and provide information for sending your questions and your proposals for papers to the Session Organizers.

Sessions for the 2018 Congress

Logo of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence (colour version)I.  Sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence

1. Manuscript (Trans)formations:  Transmission and Reception

 This session will consider how manuscripts and their contents have changed over time by focusing on transmission and reception history, so as to understand better how the material witnesses to these processes — including copying, scholia, glosses, marginalia, excisions, palimpsests — convey meaning.  Guiding research questions include but are no means limited to, these issues:

  • How have transmission processes affected texts (and vice versa)?
  • How have the actions of readers and scribes contributed to the form in which manuscripts are currently preserved?
  • How are the history of ideas and texts related as attested by extant manuscripts from the Middle Ages?

The session aims to provide a clearer understanding of the processes through which texts have been transmitted and preserved through and within manuscripts, resulting in a more dynamic conception of how material texts interact with the world. Examples might offer new discoveries and applicable methodologies.

Co-organized by

Derek Shank
Research Group on Manuscript Evidence
46 Snowden Lane
Princeton, New Jersey 08540-3916
[email protected]

Justin Hastings
English Department
Loyola University Chicago
Loyola Hall
Columbia, SC 2920|
[email protected]

2. Alfonso X’s Libro de los juegos:  Big Results from Small Data

Libro de los juegos, folio 1 recto, detail. El Escorial.

Libro de los juegos, folio 1 recto, detail. El Escorial.

Alfonso X, “the Wise,” of Castile was a polymath himself, and sponsored many more across the various communities of Iberia.  His court was the political center of Castile, at least until the rethinking of law and politics he promulgated in the Siete Partidas combined with his (invited) Ghibelline bid for the Holy Roman Emperorship to provoke a civil war in his realms, led by his second son Sancho IV.

Seal of Alfonso X of Castile. As reproduced by Otto Posse (1847-1921) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Seal of Alfonso X of Castile. As reproduced by Otto Posse (1847-1921) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Iberia was also a crossroads of travelers – scholars, pilgrims, diplomats, merchants — from all over the world, with destinations like the courts of Castile and of the Crown of Aragon.  Among the vast corpus of works which Alfonso X either directly or indirectly composed, his book on games and gaming, the Libros de ajedrez, dados y tablas (also known as the Libro de los juegos), likely finished in the early to mid-1280s at the end of his life, seems to have reflected these intellectual and political dynamics, and recorded many such travelers and dwellers of his court.

In spite of a facsimile from the late 1980s (ISBN 84-85935-28-4), this book has until recently garnered very little attention, particularly attention that considered it beyond the domains of chess and gaming, and art history.  With Sonja Musser Golladay’s 2007 dissertation and Olivia Remie Constable’s article of the same year, however, and more recent studies, analysis of the book and its context have begun to contribute to our understanding of many other aspects of the 13th century, due to its incredibly rich representation of layers of information, ranging from the portraits in its miniatures to the intertextual networks of translation in multiple domains.

In this era of “big data” and datamining, the Libro de los juegos offers a significant counter-case:  one specific manuscript of only moderate length that provides insight into a multiple domains.  It is “small data,” but data so rich that it produces “big results” when placed in productive tension across domains and disciplines.  It is a book that lends itself to interdisciplinary conversation, and to conversations that trace its contents and its effects over time, as part of a particular corpus and part of a concrete library.  The purpose of this session is to encourage a lively interdisciplinary discussion of its texts, images, and the physical book from a variety of domains, perspectives, and methods in order to address a broad array of questions both related to and beyond its explicit topic, games and aristocratic leisure, and, as such, invites participants from all quarters interested in cross-disciplinary analysis and discussion of the Libro de los juegos.

Organized by

Linde M. Brocato
126 Ned R. McWherter Library
University of Memphis
Memphis, TN 38152
[email protected]

Libro de los juegos, folio 17 verso, detail. El Escorial.

Libro de los juegos, folio 17 verso, detail. El Escorial.

II. Co-Sponsored with the Societas Magica

Logo of the Societas Magica, reproduced by permission3 Sessions

3. Celtic Magic Texts

The medieval Insular Celtic cultures–particularly those of Ireland and Wales–have a variety of magical texts which survive, but often in literally marginal locations in manuscripts, or embedded within narratives and other literary contexts.  While these are receiving increasing attention amongst the specialist audience of Insular Celticists, they are sadly unknown and relatively inaccessible to the wider academic attention of scholars of magic, as well as medieval academia generally.  This session will feature the work of established and emerging scholars who are working on these primary sources and the issues raised by them, including how each of these cultures defines “magic,” specific issues in textual editing in the respective Insular Celtic languages, and particular themes and patterns observable in the content of these magical texts.

Organized by

Phillip A. Bernhardt-House
101 SE Ely Street, #D-102
Oak Harbor, Washington 98277
[email protected]

4–5. Occult Blockbusters of the Islamic World (I–II)

I.  The Picatrix (A Magical Bestseller)

The Picatrix, as is well known, was without question historically the most popular of all Arabic occult-scientific manuals—but only in Latin Europe.  The first session of this pair will focus on the Picatrix at the intersection of the Latin and Arabic worlds, featuring new research based on a forthcoming new critical edition of the latter and a new scholarly translation with commentary on the former.

Organized by

David Porreca
Department of Classical Studies
University of Waterloo
200 University Avenue West
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1
[email protected]

II. Arabic and Persian

While the original Picatrix [in Arabic the Goal of the Sage (Ghāyat al-ḥakīm)] was certainly long prized in the Islamicate world as well, however, other Arabic and Persian manuals came to far outstrip it in popularity and influence from the 12th century onward, and circulated over geographical areas equally vast.  Due to persistent Eurocentrism, these occult blockbusters of the Islamicate world remain virtually unknown to the scholarship on medieval and early modern Western (Islamo-Judeo-Christianate) occultism.  To help rectify this gross imbalance, the second session presents four Islamicate occult-scientific manuals, three in Arabic and one in Persian, that too enjoyed blockbuster status over centuries.

Organized by

Matthew Melvin–Koushki
Department of History
University of South Carolina
224 Gambrell Hall
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
[email protected]


Please send your proposals for papers, along with the completed Congress Participant Information Form, to the Session Organizer(s) or to [email protected] to reach us on or before 15 September 2017.

Please Contact Us with your questions and suggestions. For our nonprofit educational mission, with tax-exempt status, donations in funds and in kind (expertise, materials, time) are welcome.